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A Bangladeshi woman cries for her missing relatives at a ceremony last August
A Bangladeshi woman cries for her missing relatives at a ceremony last August
Image: AP/Press Association Images

"Pay up!" ... Clothing companies under pressure over compensation for Rana Plaza victims

Nearly 1,150 people died in the Bangladesh factory collapse one year ago today. Many international retailers still aren’t contributing to the victim fund, according to Human Rights Watch.
Apr 24th 2014, 6:45 AM 7,497 7

SURVIVORS OF THE Rana Plaza building collapse one year ago in Bangladesh are still suffering from their injuries and loss of income, according to Human Rights Watch.

The NGO says international companies that sourced garments from five factories operating in the Rana Plaza building aren’t contributing enough to the financial trust fund set up to support survivors and the families of those who died.

More than 1,100 people died and about 2,500 were rescued from the disaster when the building collapsed on 24 April last year, according to the Bangladesh government.

The tragedy highlighted appalling safety conditions in the country’s €16 billion garment industry — the world’s second largest after China.

The target for the compensation fund, chaired by the International Labour Organization (ILO), is US$40 million (€29m) — but only $15 million (€11m) has been raised so far.

Source: Wong Maye-E

The fund made its first payments on Tuesday of this week as the country prepared to mark the first anniversary of tragedy.

An injured survivor and the mother of a deceased worker were each given around 50,000 taka (€460) at a ceremony .

“I’m happy. I want to use the money to set up a shop as I can’t work in a garment factory any longer,” Jesmin Akhter, 22, an unemployed survivor, told AFP after getting the cheque.

Akhter suffered backbone and leg injuries in the disaster.

Bangladesh’s deputy labour minister Mujibul Haque Chunnu and the ILO deputy director general, Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, handed out the cheques at the ceremony.

The fund is paying around 3,000 people — survivors or families of the dead — 50,000 taka each as an advance against their claims.

Survivors and relatives told Human Rights Watch that they continued to suffer from life-changing injuries, psychological trauma, and a loss of income in the wake of the disaster.

Some said they were struggling to feed their families and send their children to school. Survivors also told the NGO of the poor working conditions in the factories prior to the collapse.

Source: Suvra Kanti Das

A Bangladeshi child affixes her thumb impression on a bank document as relatives and victims gather to list their names for compensation in Savar, Dhaka.

Of the €11 million raised for the fund so far, a single firm, Primark, has donated €7 million, according to the fund’s website. Some companies that were not doing business with Rana Plaza have also contributed to the fund.

By contrast, 15 brands whose clothing and brand labels were found in the rubble of the factory by journalists and labour activists have not paid into the fund.

The ILO fund will establish a systematic and transparent claims process so that all victims, their families, and dependants receive long-term support. It’s open to any company, individual, or organization that “wishes to contribute as a way of expressing solidarity and compassion with the Rana Plaza victims,” the fund’s website explains.

Read: Primark to pay €7m compensation to workers over Bangladesh building collapse

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Daragh Brophy

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